Body Composition

Why does fat distribution matter?

Matthew Mace
January 27, 2023

Does where you hold body fat matter? Read on to find out.

When people talk about body fat, the conversation usually begins with a discussion on body fat %. And while body fat percentages are a helpful indicator of overall health, fat distribution is arguably more important.

Body fat distribution provides a more candid indicator of body fat.

All too often, people label themselves—and others—throwing around terms such as ‘skinny’ and ‘obese.’ 

And while there are medical definitions of both, they often fall into the extremes—severely obese and anorexic.

With a body composition analysis tool that measures fat distribution, such as Spren, you can see how at-risk you are of certain conditions—but we’ll dive more into this shortly. 

This blog post will explain why fat distribution matters. We’ll provide healthy body fat percentage ranges—although these should be used as estimates—and we’ll explain how fat distribution works.

What is a healthy body fat %?

Healthy and unhealthy body fat percentages vary between men and women. However, as a general rule of thumb: anywhere between 11-15% body fat for men and 21-25% body fat for females is considered good.

Body composition analysis is a more accurate measure of fat distribution—it not only shows your body fat %, but it also shows where you’re holding onto the fat. However, some body composition analysis tools, such as bioimpedance scales and underwater weighing, do not provide these measurements.

If you want to read more on body fat percentages and the various categories from “good” to “major improvement needed,” you can read our blog post titled: What is a healthy body fat percentage?

How body fat distribution works 

When talking about body fat, many people often forget the essential role fat plays.

Fat mass is the total weight of fat found in your body, stored in adipose tissue. This can be found under your skin, between the organs, and all throughout the body.

Some fat is essential—it protects the organs, stores energy, and provides insulation from the cold. 

Carrying too much fat mass, on the other hand, can increase the risk of mortality from a variety of conditions, including diabetes, coronary heart disease, and others [3].

Body fat distribution is an important predictor of metabolic abnormalities in obese humans [5]. However, even those not categorized as medically “obese” may be at risk of certain chronic conditions if they store too much fat in one area, such as the abdomen. 

The distribution of fat in the body varies from person to person. For example, you might hold a little extra mass on your thighs, belly, or neck. 

Fat typically belongs to one of two categories:

  1. Gynoid fat
  2. Android fat

We’ll explain these below. 

Android fat

Android fat is found in the trunk and the upper body, including the abdomen, chest, and back of the neck.

Carrying too much android fat poses several health concerns. For example, one study found that those with a high waist circumference and excessive android fat were at a greater risk of severe acute pancreatitis [4].

If you’ve heard the term “skinny fat” before, then what they are actually referring to is increased android fat—it’s typically a skinny body but with excess fat in the abdomen. 

This increased android fat in the abdomen can give the appearance of both a skinny and healthy physique, but in reality, the excess fat in the abdomen—and other less noticeable places—might increase a person’s risk of several chronic conditions. 

Gynoid fat 

Gynoid fat can be found around the thighs, hips, and breasts. Often, this type of fat is labeled ‘reproductive fat’ because women usually carry more of this type of fat than men [2].

Research shows gynoid fat to be positively associated with impaired glucose intolerance, hypertriglyceridemia (too many fat cells in the blood) and high blood pressure in men. On the other hand, in women, gynoid to total fat mass ratio showed a negative association with the above risks [7].

How to determine your fat distribution? 

Understanding your unique fat distribution is an important health insight. If you can determine how much android and gynoid fat you are carrying (lbs/kgs), you can see if you might be at an increased risk of certain health conditions than others.

For many people, the extra data serves as a key motivator for weight loss.

But until recently, there were very few fat distribution analysis methods.

And while body composition methods such as Dexa scans can measure fat distribution, they are not very accessible—they are expensive, must be done in a lab, and for most people, are unlikely to be repeated. Furthermore, Dexa scans often struggle to tell the difference between fat and muscle, perhaps reporting inaccurate results [6].

So, what other options do you have? You can choose skinfold tests—although these can be invasive and must be done by a medical professional—or you can use Spren.

Spren uses machine learning algorithms and computer vision to provide accurate body composition and fat distribution results. We also provide other key health insights such as lean mass, body fat %, and resting metabolic rate.

Simply snap a full-body selfie and let Spren do the work.

Try Spren today and measure your fat distribution

Go beyond the scale (and fat distribution) with Spren

While fat distribution is important, a body composition analysis using Spren provides you with extra insights for a more holistic view of your health.

For example, with one scan you can see your:

  • Body fat %
  • Fat mass
  • Lean mass
  • Android fat
  • Gynoid fat
  • Resting metabolic rate 

With more data, you can better monitor your progress, whether that means losing android or gynoid fat, maintaining lean mass, or striving to achieve a certain body fat %. 

Are you ready to crush your body composition goals? Try Spren and access reliable body composition analysis through your smartphone.


Is body fat distribution important for health?

Body fat distribution is an important predictor of the adverse health side effects related to obesity [1]. 

Why do people have different fat distributions? 

Various factors influence how you distribute fat, including genetics and sex (whether you’re male or female). For example, women typically carry more gynoid fat than men.

What is a good body fat percentage? 

Typically, anywhere between 11-15% body fat for men and 21-25% body fat for females is considered good, and for most, is a reasonable and achievable goal.


  1. Jensen, M.D., 1997. Health consequences of fat distribution. Hormones, 48(Suppl. 5), pp.88-92.

  1. Karastergiou, K., Smith, S.R., Greenberg, A.S. and Fried, S.K., 2012. Sex differences in human adipose tissues–the biology of pear shape. Biology of sex differences, 3(1), pp.1-12.

  1. Kissebah, A.H., Freedman, D.S. and Peiris, A.N., 1989. Health risks of obesity. Medical Clinics of North America, 73(1), pp.111-138.

  1. Mery, C.M., Rubio, V., Duarte-Rojo, A., Suazo-Barahona, J., Peláez-Luna, M., Milke, P. and Robles-Díaz, G., 2002. Android fat distribution as predictor of severity in acute pancreatitis. Pancreatology, 2(6), pp.543-549.

  1. Santosa, S. and Jensen, M.D., 2008. Why are we shaped differently, and why does it matter?. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 295(3), pp.E531-E535.

  1. Shepherd, J.A., Ng, B.K., Sommer, M.J. and Heymsfield, S.B., 2017. Body composition by DXA. Bone, 104, pp.101-105.

  1. Wiklund, P., Toss, F., Weinehall, L., Hallmans, G., Franks, P.W., Nordstrom, A. and Nordstrom, P., 2008. Abdominal and gynoid fat mass are associated with cardiovascular risk factors in men and women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93(11), pp.4360-4366.

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Matthew Mace

Matthew is a keen cyclist and freelance health and wellness content writer. He studied sport and exercise at Durham University and now writes for numerous active brands. When he's not writing or cycling, he can be found on the edge of his seat watching the Formula One.

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